I simplify more each Christmas, but I still have a difficult time feeling the Spirit of Christmas. I feel stress even though there is not much to stress me. This morning I decided to add a Christmas hymn to my morning devotional with hopes that music will bring the Spirit of Christmas to me as it so often does.
Christmas stories also help me to feel the Spirit of Christmas, and I received a good one in a Christmas card from a friend today. I do not know if my friend wrote the story or was just sharing it. I believe that the lesson in the story is good for any time of year, but I know that its setting is Christmas.
I was told a story many years ago of an elderly gentleman who needed to move to a retirement home the day before Christmas. The story continues to describe him as a happy, selfless, patient and understanding man, a man who lever lost sight of the love our Heavenly Father offers each one of us. I think about that sometimes and say to myself, “… you need to be more like that man moving at Christmastime to an old folks’ home.” He was patient while he waited for the handicapped van to come pick him up even though it was over an hour late. Then, after being loaded in his wheelchair into the van, he began chatting with other passengers giving a happy smile to each one of them. He began by wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and asking where they were going. Several were pretty silent, just sharing a grunt or two; while others were so happy to see a smiling face that they warmed to the old man immediately. When the others learned that he was on his way to “Settler’s Place” they were silent, looking down at the floor of the bus not wanting him to see their horror once finding out where he was going. But even though the man did recognize their facial expressions, he didn’t let on.
Velma, one of the ladies on the bus, asked him if he knew anything about the place he was going. He said, “Well, I know all I want or need to know. I know it will be great. I know I will be happy there.”
“How do you know that if you haven’t ever been there?” Velma asked. He replied, “I don’t need to have been someplace to know that I will be happy there. Being happy is a choice. And the sooner I make the choice to be happy, the happier I am, no matter where I live!”
Velma thought about that statement carefully before she answered. She could feel the guilt sliding sideways through her mind as she considered the part about happiness being a choice. Then she told him that she’d never thought that happiness was a choice. She had always assumed her mood or attitude came from the places, people and things around her.
The bus had arrived at his stop, and the driver was preparing the lift to help him down. The old man smiled at Velma and said to her, “I learned a very long time ago that if I make up my mind ahead of time that I will like something, life goes more smoothly and I don’t have to worry about being sad, since I have made the decision to choose happiness.”
By this time the bus lift was ready, but everyone on the bus, including the driver were in a state of awe at this little old man who had learned the secret of happiness. They each considered their own habit of thinking negatively, while he was teaching them the secret! Velma didn’t want to listen, though. She was sure that what he said wouldn’t work in her life. She was always thinking miserable thoughts about how her family no longer enjoyed visiting her, and they usually don’t have anything interesting to say, anyway. But she misses them all the same. The old man’s lesson was almost lost on her. But then, as he was waving goodbye, she thought, maybe she could try it. He was clearly a happy man. Maybe, she thought, she’d give it a try during the Christmas season this year.
This story and the following quote go hand in hand: “Happiness is a choice, not a result. Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy. No person will make you happy unless you decide to be happy. Your happiness will not come to you. It can only come from you” (Ralph Marston).
The story sort of made me sad. I hate to think of any elderly person being taken to an old folks’ home by some strangers at any time, let alone on Christmas Eve. Yet, it did not bother the old man. I decided to apply his secret and choose to feel the Christmas Spirit. I will simply decide that I have the Christmas Spirit and move forward with the season. How does one act when they have the Spirit of Christmas? I suppose that singing, smiling, and sharing are all part of the Christmas Spirit, so I can start there.